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New Polling Highlights Disconnects in Perceptions of Data Use that Threaten COVID-19 Recovery

New Polling Highlights Disconnects in Perceptions of Data Use that Threaten COVID-19 Recovery

Data Quality Campaign’s national poll surfaces challenges for state leaders to address now

WASHINGTON (August 18, 2021) – Leaders are grappling with the unprecedented challenge of working to understand and address the impact of the pandemic on students and communities. To support recovery, decisionmakers at all levels, from state policymakers to parents, must have access to data and use it to effectively address the challenges schools and districts face. But the Data Quality Campaign’s (DQC) 2021 public opinion polling of parents and principals uncovered considerable disconnects that could threaten efforts to use data to address the current moment and beyond.

As leaders turn their attention to the upcoming school year, data continues to be a critical tool for informing recovery efforts. State and local leaders are working together and using data to tackle the most pressing issues, which include:

  • Understanding and responding to disrupted post-high school pathways. Everyone from students to governors needs access to robust and timely information about pathways to inform choices and ensure that individuals and systems get back on track.
  • Measuring and mitigating unprecedented levels of unfinished learning. Teachers and school leaders are working to figure out how to measure (through assessments and other online learning data) and address unfinished learning at this scale. And state leaders need good data to make decisions quickly about how best to allocate resources so that schools have what they need to get students back on track.
  • Enrolling and re-engaging students. To identify and re-engage these students, school and district leaders will have to dig into enrollment, attendance, and engagement data to understand which students they lost last year and how to re-engage them this fall.

“Leaders face an enormous task ahead as they support their schools, districts, and communities to and through recovery. They must prioritize using data to make the best possible decisions for every student,” said DQC President and CEO Jennifer Bell-Ellwanger. “But principals, parents, and teachers also need data that they can find, use, understand, and, most importantly, trust. Without it, recovery efforts—no matter how well intentioned—will surely stall.”

While state leaders plan how to address these challenges, they must also account for major disconnects in how parents and principals are thinking about data use. Conducted by The Harris Poll, DQC’s sixth parent poll and first principal poll uncovered disconnects in how parents and principals believe data can and should be used for recovery. State leaders must take action to address the following issues now:

  • Most principals (80%) think teachers have the capacity to use data to support the academic needs of students in the coming school year, but teachers disagree. Teachers have consistently reported lacking the time and training they need to use data effectively. As educators work to address unfinished learning, teachers need the right supports to effectively use data.
  • Parents support state assessments and value the information that comes from them but principals trust locally designed assessments more, creating a potential barrier to parents getting the data they need. 67% of parents said that student growth data is helpful information to have about student learning over the past year—data that is only available from statewide assessments. Parents and principals need data from state assessments to fully understand and address the impact of the pandemic on students’ learning.
  • COVID-19 has changed how parents (63%) and principals (80%) think about their students’ post-high school options, but they can’t find all of the data they need to answer their questions. But few principals (46%) and parents (34%) know where to go to find all the data they need to understand their students’ post-high school options. It is essential that parents and principals have easy access to the right data so they can support students through the recovery.
  • As parents and principals struggle to find data about post-high school pathways, they should be able to turn to their state report cards for answers, but they can’t. 74% of parents get information about their students’ post-high school options from school leaders, while principals look to multiple sources of data, including state report cards, to understand how well their school is preparing graduates and inform the conversations they have with parents. However, too few states included robust information about post-high school pathways on their latest report card.
  • Parents (63%) and principals (83%) value student performance data broken out by different student groups (e.g., race, gender, socioeconomic status). Every state must include this information on their report cards, but most still don’t.

“Differing perceptions of data use and availability pose difficult barriers to recovery. For example, when principals think teachers have the capacity to use data to support students, but teachers disagree, it should be a signal to leaders that they must take action,” said Bell-Ellwanger. “Teachers need the right data and the right conditions to use that data effectively—and that includes support from school and district leadership. If unchecked, these issues will not only persist, but worsen—and students will lose out.”

The parent and principal surveys were conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of the Data Quality Campaign. Parent polling was conducted from April 29 to May 5, 2021, among 1,514 parents of children ages 5–17 whose children attend school. Principal polling was conducted from May 5 to May 11, 2021, among 504 full-time principals and administrators in the United States, all of whom were currently employed teaching grades K–12.

View DQC’s 2021 national polling, including action steps state leaders can take now to address recovery challenges, here.


Contact: Blair Mann,, 610-724-5914

About the Data Quality Campaign
The Data Quality Campaign is a nonprofit policy and advocacy organization leading the effort to bring every part of the education community together to empower educators, families, and policymakers with quality information to make decisions that ensure that students excel. For more information, go to and follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@EdDataCampaign).